Press Conference at LPN

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson (R) reacts to a tour around flood damaged areas in Livingston Parish a year removed from the Great Flood of 2016 during a press conference at the Livingston Parish News on August 14, 2017.

Every year, the News polls its staff to ask them what they believe were the top 10 stories and events from the previous year.

Below, you will find the results of said poll along with a short blurb about each story, or series of stories, from 2017.

As always, the News appreciates any community feedback and we hope you enjoy reading!

No. 1 - Restore LA Task Force continues to meet, but money "trickles" out 

Despite having been allocated nearly $1.5 billion to help with recovery, very little of those dollars found their way to homeowners. By the end of 2017, roaring crowds who normally visited the Restore Louisiana Task Force (the group of politicians, business owners, and community leaders burdened with the "glorious purpose" of distributing said funds) meetings had dwindled, as ferocity and resolve had given way to exasperation and confusion.

In August of 2017, just one year after the flood, Department of Housing and Urban Development director Dr. Ben Carson visited Livingston Parish, and gave a press conference at the News regarding the "red-tape recovery" the state was experiencing. Combined with other named storms lambasting Texas and Florida, Louisiana seemed doomed to be forgotten.

However, near the end of 2017 a light beamed from the end of the tunnel. Congressman Garret Graves scored a win by getting legislation passed that removed the "double benefit" clause that was causing so many people who needed aid to be removed by supposedly receiving benefits from other sources - including insurance, SBA loans, etc.

Not long after, the entire Louisiana delegation in Washington D.C. went big, and got to come home for Christmas with a success as the tax reform package passed just before the end of the year included tax breaks for those involved in the Great Flood of 2016.

How this will affect the task force's ability to distribute money remains to be seen, but with only 10% of the $1.5 billion being distributed after 18 months, the situation is expected to get better.

No. 2 - Denham Strong works to bring community desires to light

In the wake of the Great Flood of 2016, a small group of concerned citizens was presented an opportunity - a chance to steer the city of Denham Springs in a different direction. One that was less focused on growth, a little more growth, and then growth on top of that - but a controlled methodology that planned to turn the city into a more family-oriented place to live, as opposed to a "bedroom community."

To learn more about the Denham Strong movement and how's its worked and evolved, tap below.

No. 3 - School, fire district renewals pass. Drainage tax proposals fail.

It was a tough year for tax proposals, and that ran true in Livingston Parish as well as anywhere else. While millage renewals for the schools, and fire protection districts 5 and 8 passed (although with some resistance) the proposed drainage taxes failed.

No. 4 - Community college officially announced for Livingston Parish

This long and hard-fought project finally found itself with an official announcement, a land acquisition, and a timeline. Local politicians, members of the Livingston Economic Development Council, and members of the school board are pleased with the news as it opens up new avenues for education and workforce development.

No. 5 - Suit filed against LA DOTD, contractors for "I-12 Dam"

Other groups just wanted to rebuild and recover. However, some wanted to lay some blame and get those folks to pay in damages.

Or, at least, have those contractors and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development fix the dam.

Currently, all parties have their engines started for this one.

No. 6 - Gas tax fails, infrastructure problems remain

Well, the pill was just too tough to swallow for many Louisianians. In fact, this one didn't even make it to vote.

The premise was an extra 17 cent tax on gasoline at the pumps. That would go to fund a Department of Transportation and Development backlog that had grown to some $15 billion (almost 30 if you include "mega-projects," bridges, interstates, etc.)

Proponents of the bill struggled to market it, however, and most Bayou State residents pressed their representatives - and the bill failed. Unfortunately, the deficit remained.

No. 7 - Comite Diversion saga ongoing

The News is sure you've heard of this one, but if you haven't - the Comite Diversion Canal is the sister waterway to the Amite River Diversion Canal in southern Livingston Parish. The premise has existed for almost the same amount of time, yet the Amite version has carried water for two more decades.

Yes, residents in East Baton Rouge, Ascension, and Livingston parishes have paid a tax on this particular entity for almost three decades without a finished product. The culprit? Well, that's a long list.

DOTD and the State of Louisiana haven't exactly been helpful.

But no list of villains is complete without the Army Corps of Engineers!

Although, Congressman Garret Graves has been extremely pushy for this one.

Not much has changed in 2017, however, other than the hope that perhaps the Restore Louisiana Task Force can lend a hand?

No. 8 - Legislature tries to tackle TOPS issues

TOPS has become a white elephant for the Louisiana legislature. While the program is lauded as a success for Louisiana residents and their children and offering a chance for secondary education - or, at least, some financial help to meet that goal.

Unfortunately, higher education is one of the few places the legislature can go to make budget cuts - so TOPS always ends up in the cross hairs. While the program survived this year, Gov. John Bel Edwards has formed a task force to make suggestions at the 2018 legislative session about how to expand the program and make it more effective.

No. 9 - Despite flood, schools recovering and improving

The Livingston Parish School Board scrambled, found their footing, and kept on running.

They got their millage passed.

And, despite the flood, schools improved during the 2016-2017 year after receiving a waiver on performance scores.

Now, the board and its faculty continue to face the battle with FEMA.

No. 10 - Retail recovering from flood, Juban Crossing back into expansion mode

With the flood having passed, Juban Crossing tenants made their respective recoveries and are moving forward - an item that shows up in the fact that sales tax revenues are higher than ever.

It doesn't stop there - Juban Crossing is expanded across the street into what will be called "Juban Marketplace." The cornerstone? All-Star Kia/Nissan.

We hope you enjoyed the Top 10 news stories of 2017! You can find the links to lifestyle's top 10 and the sports crew's top 10 below!

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